OPINION: Let's learn to love the Lottery

Lisa Harker, chair of the Daycare Trust

When it comes to its contribution to good causes, the National Lottery has never had the press it deserves.

Its arrival in 1994 was greeted with feeble applause from the voluntary sector at a time when many charities were wary of being seen to benefit from a form of gambling.

Ever since its launch there have been fears that politicians would dupe Lottery ticket buyers into footing the bill for services that ought to be funded from a much less regressive system of direct taxation.

Add to this the enduring belief that, rather than increase the level of funding for good causes, the National Lottery will tempt the public away from giving donations to charities.

None of these doomsday scenarios has transpired. Concerns about the Lottery triggering a mass gambling addiction have all but faded away.

The National Lottery's contribution to communities has been generous at a time of increased levels of (tax-funded) public investment. And public donations to charity are at an all-time high, despite the fact that we spend more than £85m a week in the hope of being a Lottery winner.

Now that ticket sales are falling - in line with lotteries the world over - the voluntary sector has cause to regret that the National Lottery is not cherished for its contribution to good causes. Last week there were reports that the slump in ticket sales has forced the Community Fund to reduce grants by 20 per cent in the last year.

It's about time we learned to love the Lottery. Without it we would not have seen such high levels of investment in the community and voluntary sectors in recent years. Lottery funding has helped to transform community schemes up and down the country.

Camelot is now searching for strategies to turn the tide in falling ticket sales. Part of the answer has to lie in promoting its relationship to good causes. If the National Lottery was marketed for what it is - a fun way to give money to charity - it might generate renewed interest from the public. It is time we in the voluntary sector acknowledged that the National Lottery isn't something we want to do without.

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